Director: Ray Kellogg
Writer: Jay Simms
Cast: James Best, Ingrid Goude, Ken Curtis, Gordon McLendon, Baruch Lumet, Judge Henry Dupree, and Alfredo deSoto
Composers: Henry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin
Release Date: 6/25/1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Delivering supplies to a remote island, Captain Thorne Sherman (James Best) and his first mate Rook Griswold (Judge Henry Dupree) are greeted by Doctor Marlowe Craigis (Baruch Lumet) and his daughter Ann (Ingrid Goude). Before long, Thorne learns of Dr. Craigis’ research on serums and his proclivity for using rodent test subjects—with a terrifying outcome.
The Killer Shrews is an underrated sci-fi/horror B movie. Nevertheless, this offering may evoke criticism for its ludicrous ending, inaudible dialogue, and Z-grade monster effects.
Benefiting from a claustrophobic island setting and an eerie music score, this film deserves praise for its creepy and engrossing atmosphere. (Horror buffs may, in fact, identify strong parallels between The Killer Shrews and Night of the Living Dead, both of which take place in a small, boarded house and feature two main characters—one more sympathetic than the other—who nearly kill each other over a personal conflict.)
Portrayed using hand puppets and coonhounds covered in fake fur, the killer shrews may invite mockery from modern audiences. (The Giant Gila Monster, in contrast, showcases a living animal when depicting the mutant lizard, which results in a somewhat believable outcome.)
The Killer Shrews is also marred by one significant narrative flaw. Specifically, Dr. Craigis never reveals how his harebrained experiments—intended to shrink the average human, thereby decreasing the need for food consumption—cause the titular shrews to grow in size.
Though ridiculous, the main concept for The Killer Shrews indicates that tampering with natural forces, even for benevolent purposes, can lead to devastating consequences for the human race—a common science fiction trope explored previously in Frankenstein, Godzilla, and other creature features of the classic variety.
Combining giant rodents with a mad scientist theme, The Killer Shrews will appeal to fans of the sci-fi/horror crossover genre. This film should likewise be commended for its engaging premise, suspenseful execution, and rousing performance from James Best—known for appearing in several episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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